Like most puppies, Luna, a four-and-a-half month-old English Springer Spaniel, got her nose into everything.
“She was the most loving and most delightful puppy imaginable,” said owner Peter Ronald.
But that cute curiosity proved fatal.
“Puppies often experience the world through their mouths. Everything goes in, and we’ often tried to get things away from her which she shouldn’t have, but in this case, it was no reason to think it was something serious. So she swallowed it,” said Ronald.
“She was vomiting so we took her into the clinic. Thirty-six hours later, she was dead.”
Luna had eaten a deadly death cap mushroom, responsible for 90 per cent of mushroom fatalities worldwide.
It’s an invasive species, one that’s on its way to becoming relatively common here in Greater Victoria, with reports of sightings in Cook Street Village, Oak Bay, and the Uplands.
“Just within sight of where I’m standing there are about 30 death caps,” said Jason Gowen, an amateur mycologist who has studied mushrooms in Victoria for over a decade, pointing to a private property in the Uplands.
And eating just one can be lethal.
In 2016 a three-year-old Victoria boy died after foraging with his family downtown. This past September, a chocolate lab puppy died from liver failure after eating the sinister shrooms.
The mushrooms look harmless to most, with a greenish hue on the cap, white gills underneath its button-like top, a white ring on the top of the stem, and a loose sac-like cup that’s hidden below the ground.
A week ago my beautiful 4-mo old Springer spaniel puppy Luna died 36 hrs after being taken ill. We now know that Death cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides) were growing in a corner garden bed. Beware: exotic, invasive, deadly, they're found in urban area of #yvr & #yyj @CDCofBC pic.twitter.com/at7o9TnGZH
— Peter Ronald (@raenvald) October 13, 2019
And on top of that, experts say they’re hard to get rid of.
“You can manage what’s in your vicinity, but they will be back,” said Gowen.
“Eradication methods are only so effective. You can pick all those mushrooms and if the conditions are proper, they’ll be back next week.”
That being said, digging them out, is still the best option.
“Pry it up from below, seal it in a bag and dispose of in the garbage, not the compost,” said Gowen.
Meanwhile, Luna’s owner wants everyone to learn what death caps look like, so his family’s heartbreak doesn’t become anyone else’s.
“If anything good can come from this tragedy, I want that to happen, to other people from losing their pet or god forbid their child,” said Ronald.
If you think you may have consumed a poisonous mushroom, Island Health urges you to go to the nearest hospital, keep a sample of the mushroom for testing and call the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or call 911.